Getting the Joke… 30 Years Later

It’s strange how we can be completely oblivious… until something clicks.

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Screenshot from The Simpsons

The other day, I was sitting in my car listening to the podcast The Drive with Peter Attia. It was with a surgeon who works on hair transplants and other hair therapies. He was discussing some of the drugs used to treat alopecia and mentioned Minoxidil.

The lightbulb went off.


This was the hair drug that Homer used to regrow his hair and with his new found confidence, climb the corporate latter. It was later revealed that he had defrauded his insurance company through his doctor, claiming it was needed to “keep brain from freezing.” The episode first aired October 18, 1990 (Season 2, Episode 2 — “Simpson and Delilah”).

My six year old mind found that reason funny enough in that it was absurd. Like “keep brain from following out” or “to keep fingers from turning to bubble gum”. I still got a smirk for the maybe dozen times I saw this episode as a rerun into my teens.

However, I missed the real joke.

The drug they were joking about, Minoxidil, had been developed in the 1950s to treat ulcers but was found to be good for hypertension. One of the side effects was hair regrowth. It eventually was being prescribed off label to treat balding. It was only in the late 1980s that the FDA finally approved its use for hair loss treatment. Right around the time the Simpsons was first airing. It was likely that doctors were giving all sorts of reasons to prescribe Minoxidil to hide the real reason and still get it covered by insurance… like to keep one’s brain from freezing.

It was only while listening to this hair loss doctor on Attia’s podcast — 30 years later — that the original joke from the Simpsons finally clicked. Of course Dimoxinil would keep your brain from freezing.


Hair keeps your head warm and therefore your brain from freezing.

Wow! I missed this the whole time. The joke is only mildly more funny but the wow factor was my blind spot. It makes me think what other things that seem so obvious to others might be completely missed by us or vice versa.

What assumptions are we carrying around that are just off?

Working in tech, it’s probably better to restate some of the obvious just in case you might blow someone’s mind a bit.

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